I testified before the Council of the District of Columbia earlier this evening on a bill that would essentially prevent the Metropolitan Police Department from considering participation in the Secure Communities program crafted by ICE. In my testimony, I wrote:
[T]the Secure Communities (“S-COMM”) program promoted by the Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency (“ICE”), like the other 12 immigration programs included within the “ICE ACCESS” umbrella, is an invitation to racial profiling and the Council is right to oppose it through Bill 18-795. The Department of Homeland Security’s own inspector general has already documented pervasive profiling under ICE’s 287(g) program. Given the programs’ shared aims and common institutional source, there is no reason to presume that S-COMM will respect the law given documented patterns of abuse by ICE and local partner agencies that facilitate its efforts around the country.
The question before this Council does not pertain only to the rights of immigrants. Rather, declining to collaborate with ICE will ensure the civil rights of all DC residents, including US citizens. The presumption of innocence is a bedrock American commitment. It does not permit abrogation to satisfy political whims.
Yet the presumption of innocence will be dramatically curtailed without the legislation sought by advocates for affected communities. The S-COMM program, which this bill will prevent the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) from considering for implementation here in DC, would allow ICE access to arrestees in DC prior to their conviction (i.e., on the unilateral authority of a police officer, without any judicial check or balance).
Arrestees who are never charged with an offense, perhaps because the evidence does not support prosecution, or perhaps was collected illegally, would remain subject to summary deportation. Pre-conviction penalties violate the norms of our justice system as a matter of principle, and invite pretextual arrests as a matter of practice.
I also encouraged DC to consider further reforms to provide enforceable limits to stop and prevent potential profiling and other excesses by the Metropolitan Police Department, within--but also beyond--the specific immigration context.